November 29, 2005
Fayetteville Observer (North Carolina)
DuPont seeking cause of seepage
By Nomee Landis
Barry Hudson, the manager of DuPont’s Fayetteville
Works plant, says that he does not know how the chemical got into
A chemical that has contaminated drinking water near a DuPont
plant in West Virginia has seeped into groundwater beneath the
Fayetteville plant where it is made.
The chemical, ammonium perfluorooctanoate, or APFO,
is commonly called C8. It is used by DuPont and other companies
to make products including fast-food wrappers, Teflon pans and
coatings for wires and semiconductors.
APFO was found two years ago in the groundwater
beneath another building at the plant site. The plant is off N.C.
87 near the Cumberland-Bladen County line.
Barry Hudson, the manager of DuPont’s Fayetteville
Works plant, said Monday that he and other company officials do
not know how the chemical got into the groundwater beneath the
APFO manufacturing facility. He said it is not related to the
contamination detected earlier.
Michael Johnson, the environmental manager at the
plant, said the amount of contamination surprised him, but the
level is not a concern.
More groundwater samples must be drawn, Johnson
said, to get a clearer picture of the extent of the contamination
and where it might have come from. Months of dry weather have
made it difficult to test the groundwater because some of the
wells have been dry.
The most contaminated water
was taken from a new monitoring well near the APFO facility. That
sample found a concentration of 147 parts APFO per billion parts
water. That is about 100 times more than the amount discovered
beneath the other building in 2003.
Johnson said 1 part per billion is about the same
as a single drop in 22,000 gallons of water.
Hudson said the contamination could have resulted
from a spill at the APFO facility, but none of the technicians
can recall an incident that might have caused it. Some APFO is
released through the smokestack at the facility into the air.
The solid chemical settles to the ground and dissolves in water.
It can then be carried into the groundwater.
Hudson said the facility releases
about 200 pounds of APFO into the air each year around the plant.
He expressed doubt that the polluted groundwater was a
result of airborne releases, but he said DuPont was considering
upgrading the technology to remove more of the chemical from the
The C8 Working Group is a coalition of public interest
groups and members of the United Steelworkers Union. That union
represents some DuPont employees, but not those in Fayetteville.
It has been working to publicize the APFO contamination in Fayetteville.
The C8 Working Group wants more stringent monitoring
of the DuPont Fayetteville Works plant to ensure that APFO is
not getting into drinking water or otherwise affecting people
here as it has in West Virginia.
DuPont discovered APFO in
the groundwater beneath the Nafion plant on its site in 2003.
They attributed that to an old concrete cistern beneath that plant
that failed years ago and allowed chemicals to seep into the groundwater.
They said earlier this year that the APFO there was probably formed
when other chemicals biodegraded.
The discovery of APFO in the groundwater, though,
led to the expansion of the monitoring program on DuPont’s
property. In 2003, there were five monitoring
wells. Now there are 24, and seven more are planned.
DuPont opened the $23 million
APFO facility in 2002 to produce the chemical after the 3M company
stopped making it. The Fayetteville site is the only place in
the U.S. where the chemical is made.
In West Virginia and Ohio, the chemical has contaminated
drinking water. That led to a class-action lawsuit involving more
than 50,000 people. DuPont agreed in March to pay $107.6 million
to settle the suit. The company is also paying for health screenings
for as many as 60,000 people who drank contaminated water. The
company could pay as much as $235 million for that monitoring.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating
the chemical because it lingers so long in the environment and
in people. Studies have shown that APFO is in the blood of nearly
The chemical is not regulated by the EPA.
Hudson said a new round of groundwater sampling
will begin in January at the Fayetteville plant. The N.C. Department
of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency will conduct sampling at the same time that
DuPont takes its samples.
Larry Stanley, a hydrogeologist with the state,
is working closely with DuPont to monitor the APFO contamination.
The state is concerned, Stanley said, because the APFO facility
has not been operating long.
Stanley said it is still early in the monitoring
process, but it has asked DuPont to install more monitoring wells
and to investigate how the chemical got into the water and where
it came from.
The state could ask DuPont to clean up the contamination
if it is found to exceed a state standard. But such a standard
does not yet exist. Stanley said state environmental officials
are discussing whether to establish that standard and how that
might be done.
Stanley said it has become more involved since the
C8 Working Group asked the state to conduct sampling.
Staff writer Nomee Landis can be reached at email@example.com